Tag Archives: Blu’s Hanging

The Sense of Dying to Belong in “Blu’s Hanging”

A theme that occurred to me recently that can be seen in “Bl’s Hanging” is the sense of dying to belong. We can see o=it occur within all the children as they try to cope and make it in the world after their mother’s life. Each child is stuck trying to find their purpose in life and deal with their struggles they each have. All they want to do really is find peace within their selves and live out their lives that were destined to them. Prime example, Ivah wanting to go off to school after her mother dies and she is left to raise her younger siblings. Her father, Poppy, even blames her for abandoning her siblings by making this decision. All Ivah really wanting to do is make something out of her life, get past her mother’s death, and do something to help better herself as a person. Instead, she is looked at as the “bad guy” by her father for wanting to do so. She is dying to belong and live her life as a child (which she still is). However, childhood has been taken away from her before she even gets a chance to live it. Her mother dies, her father turns to drugs to cope, which leaves her no choice but to help raise her siblings—losing her childhood She’s curious to know what it is like to live that childhood life, be able to go to school, get an education, and do the things she sees other children doing. Instead, adulthood has already met her with an unanswered childhood being left behind her for her to only dream about. A sense of dying belong is heavily seen throughout the text.

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Food in Blu’s Hanging

I have noticed the prevalence of food in many of the books I have recently read. In some cases, it is the most obvious topic of the novel, as in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games. In Blu’s Hanging by Lois food is an underlying theme. This novel seems to recognize that food is the source of life; the three main characters each interact with it.

The children in Blu’s Hanging use food as a source of comfort after their mother’s death. Perhaps they subconsciously connect the life that food brings with the life of their mother. The brother, Blu, reacts with food by over consuming it. He eats until “he feels sick and full” (12). It leaves him with a numb feeling that helps him cope. Ivah, the oldest sister of the family, is put in charge of feeding the family after her mother’s death. Finally, Maisie, the youngest sibling, has stopped talking to people as a reaction to the death of her mother. It takes a Betty Crocker cake box for her to talk. Her teacher asks her to read it out loud and surprisingly she does. Perhaps it is the food that gives her enough comfort with the situation to read aloud to other people.

It also seems that types of food that the family eats improve as the novel progress. In the beginning their main source of nutrition is mayonnaise bread. They still eat food that is cheap as the novel progresses; however, Ivah gets more resourceful with the food she cooks which allows the family to eat a variety of foods. Perhaps this symbolizes their gradual relinquishing of grief for their mothers death.

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Animals in After Dark and Blu’s Hanging

When reading After Dark, I found it interesting to consider the similarities between the perceptions of animals in this novel and the one we read last week, Blu’s Hanging. It’s interesting to consider how animals in Blu’s Hanging were viewed as good luck symbols to the Ogata children. Big Sis tells Ivah that “you put that black cat on your stomach and the bugga pull all your sadness into herself” (Yamanaka 83).  For the children and people of Hawaii animals were a symbol of comfort and happiness, but in After Dark, when animals are mentioned they instill fear. Takahashi tells Mari that, “any single human being, no matter what kind of a person he or she may be, is all caught up in the tentacles of this animal like a giant octopus, and is getting sucked into the darkness. You can put any kind of spin on it you like, but you end up with the same unbearable spectacle” (Murakami 99). Takahashi believes that behavior in humans is caused by this evil creature that lives at the bottom of the ocean, ultimately causing people to do things that are out of their control.  I think it’s interesting to consider the opposing viewpoint of animals in these two novels. Although they initially may be viewed as somewhat minor parts of both novels, I think that they bring up important cultural ideals and give insight to the reader as to how animals, most of the time, can carry ritualistic and magical symbolism—sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

 

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Isolation from Reality in “Blu’s Hanging” using Animals as Symbolism

Growing up, older members of my family who are native to Puerto Rico, particularly my grandparents on both of my parents’ sides, encouraged me to escape sadness and negativity by turning to religion for comfort. I became aware later in my childhood that the ideals I was taught were not true for all people, and people from different places believe in different entities and  symbols that provide them with comfort the way my beliefs do. These differences are what make people unique, and the ways their beliefs affect the way they live almost dictate whether or not they will live a stressful or stress-free life.

As I was reading “Blu’s Hanging”, I found that the story was abundant with symbolism that was unfamiliar to me, particularly because of how counterintuitive it seemed. For example, many people have been taught that crossing paths with a black cat is bad luck, where as black cats play a vital role in minimizing sadness. It also became apparent that, when Hoppy Creetat and Ka-san were brought into the household, life for the family became more bearable an, at times, fun.

In addition, there are instances when  the animals act as extensions of the Ogata family, while other times the animals are presented as spiritual guides that contain wisdom that will release the family from sadness, such as the dog’s tears and the colors of the cats. The animals of the family have always, in some way, affected the emotional state of each character in some way that allows them to escape from the disenchanting occurrences of their daily lives. Such apparent symbolism inspired me to research more heavily on the topic.

Questions that will encourage further clarification of my main points in my essay are:

1. What makes the presence of birds important? Do animals, other than cats and dogs, play a significant enough role to mention in conjunction with the greatest symbolic animals of the text?

2. Why is it important that a black dog can be substituted for a black cat when the latter is absent in the Ogata family’s lives? What can this signify?

3. Does their living situation affect how strongly they believe in the symbolic representation of the animals? How would their experience with animals be different if they were financially better off than they are in the story?

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